Basilio, the Orphan
A long time ago, in a land far away, there lived an orphan named Basilio. He was a handsome and strong young man. He was tall and beautiful. He loved to spend his days running in the pastures breathing in the cool fresh air of the mountainside. Sometimes, he would lay on the grass and listen to the sounds of the earth, the howling of the wind, and the faint cries of awesome creatures that existed very far away. Being one of the eldest children in the orphanage where he lived, he was responsible for many of the daily chores, but he always managed to find time for these quiet moments of solitude.
During his 17th birth year, he was finally turned away from the orphanage. Basilio was devastated. He could not imagine what he would do once he was forced to fend for himself in a world that had never been kind to him. He was allowed ample time to pack his belongings and bid fond farewells to the rest of the children he had come to think of as his family. The clergyman told him about his only living relative, his estranged grandmother. She had requested that her grandson should be transported to her home immediately. It came to pass that at dawn, a carriage arrived to take Basilio to his new home. It was a long journey past the hills and almost a full day away.
That night, he arrived at the huge mansion and was served a delicious supper. After dinner, he was led to his sleeping quarters. Basilio decided to rest his weary body and prepare to finally meet his grandmother in the early morning. He was overwhelmed by simultaneous feelings of exhaustion and excitement.
In the morning, when he came down to breakfast, he found his hostess, an elegant older woman, seated at the head of the dining room table. He was overwhelmed by her majestic and powerful presence. He found himself unable to utter a single word. She introduced herself as Giovanna. She welcomed him and said he should stay as long as he wished. She felt the opportunity for her to care for him was before her now and she planned to take full advantage of it.
However, in order to remain in her household, he would have to promise to obey three simple requests. First, he was forbidden to ever speak of or inquire about his mother. Secondly, he was never to enter the tower of the mansion. And thirdly, he had to promise never to marry. Basilio agreed without hesitation. He could not bear the thought of having to be entirely self-reliant after so many years of living under the protection of the orphanage's hierarchy.
During his stay at his grandmother's home, he befriended a young servant girl named Anna, who worked in the kitchen. Every day, they would go into the forest together and return hours later. As time passed, the grandmother began to suspect the blossoming romance, and the young pair was forced to meet in the dark forest at night. The grandmother had forbidden them to continue their regular encounters. However, the lovers always found a way to meet secretly.
One evening, Basilio asked the young girl if she knew anything about his mother. Anna had lived in the village all of her life and always seemed to be aware of all the current gossip. She recalled someone mentioning his mother died during childbirth. The baby had survived, but was deformed. The boy's father was a horrible monster. His mother had been a powerful witch that had an insatiable desire to possess those powers that are beyond this realm. She was not content with material goods although she could have anything she could possibly want. She was always casting spells in hopes to surpass the magic of the most powerful wizards of the land.
Basilio immediately dismissed Anna's evidently false tale. After all, it was obvious that he was not deformed, and he resented the implications that his mother had been such a horribly evil person. He concluded that the superstitious villagers must have contrived the story to explain the mysterious death of a highly respected aristocrat. Anna was angry because he would not believe her and in order to verify her narrative, informed him that several of the villager's children had vanished mysteriously over the years. It was believed that the monster that lived in the mountains had taken them. Basilio began to laugh in disbelief as the fuming Anna rushed back to the mansion leaving him behind.
At daybreak, Basilio began to make his way down to the table to partake in the morning meal when he spotted his grandmother descending from atop the forbidden tower. This greatly aroused his curiosity. He silently waited until she disappeared from view. He, then, quietly approached the outer door of the tower and noticed the key that unlocked the door was still in the keyhole. He turned the rusted key until the door gave way and climbed up the steps into the tower itself. This place was completely desolate and gloomy. It was quite difficult to believe this was part of the busy and luxurious house below. Basilio began inspecting the damp and dusty stone tower. He found a bunch of dusty, extremely large, and unusually fiery red feathers in a corner near a small window. He was unable to identify the type of bird that had left these behind. They were oddly sharp to the touch. In fact, he cut his finger in his effort to carefully study them. He then spotted a very large book. He drew closer and saw it contained magical spells. The book had been left open to a page illustrating a sketch of a peculiar creature that possessed the head and limbs of a cock and the body of a venomous snake. Underneath the garish illustration, was the name Cockatrice, or the basilisk (little king), carefully scripted with the very brightest red ink he had ever seen. Basilio suspected his grandmother would return shortly and hurried back to his bedroom.
Basilio opened the door of this chamber and found Anna's angry father beside his grandmother. Giovanna dismissed the irate man, and assured him she would discipline the boy herself. The man left quite reluctantly, but hastily as he had been commanded. Giovanna instructed Basilio to sit down, "Do not interrupt me until I have finished! You have done a ghastly thing and I know that you do not fully understand." Basilio sat obediently, "The cook's daughter is with child, your child." Her fists were clenched so tightly that her knuckles were turning white. She intuitively reached for the bed and sat down beside him. She seemed to have lost her balance for just a moment. She was about to lose consciousness, but she continued, " I feel it is now time you know the truth of your birth. I have been trying to keep it hidden in order to protect you and our family name, but now it must be known. I suppose tragedies of this magnitude will never be easily set aside." She continued, "Your mother had been experimenting with dark forces. She was not able to satisfy herself with what money could buy her. Her father and I tried giving her everything she demanded, but what she really wanted, we could not supply. Then one night, she called upon a frightening creature, an evil demon from the very depths of hell, a Basilisk. She wanted to steal one of the feathers from its crown. This feather was to be used in one of her spells. She did not understand the calamity she was summoning. She believed her powers would restrain the beast. She would not heed the warning that only another one of its own kind could defeat it." Giovanna wept so bitterly as she whispered hoarsely, "A creature whose gaze was deadly. It had a ferocious and unforgiving nature. It was a beast that was never meant to be unleashed on humanity. Once she collected the feather, she could not return the creature to its previous dwelling. The creature overpowered her and embedded its evil seed inside her virgin womb." Her voice became slightly louder, "A hideous and unspeakable mutation between a human and such a creature had never taken place before." Now, Basilio was weeping silently as Giovanna spoke again, "I found your mother, my only daughter, dead and limp upstairs after the end of this abominable pregnancy. And then I noticed, an unusually large, spotted foul-smelling egg beside her body. I took the egg and abandoned it in a cave somewhere in the hills. Somewhere where it would never be found. Over a year passed, and one day, I read in the local newspaper that a shepherd found you in the same cave where I deserted that egg. He was a poor man, and took you to the orphanage. I erased those painful memories from my mind and never returned to the tower again. No one has ever laid eyes upon the creature again, but now and again, children vanish from the village. It never lets us forget it is always lurking and waiting. According to legend, the Basilisk collects children to satisfy its ravenous appetites, but only the child born directly from its own bloodline, its spawn, will be able to return it to the depths of hell from whence the wicked animal emerged."
Basilio asked, "Then why hasn't he taken me?"
"I don't know! But, you must understand, all these years, you have lived as a human child. You were not a child born in his image, and therefore, you were unable to procreate and keep its legacy alive."
Basilio felt frightened and confused. He was beside himself with grief and chose to seclude himself to the tower bowing never to come out again.
Inevitably, on the eve of Basilio's 18th birthday, Anna gave birth to a son. As the newborn made its way down the birth canal and into a new unknown world so did the change come upon Basilio. He was going through a horrid metamorphoses that was now unstoppable. He glimpsed himself in a looking glass. For the first time he saw the atrocious manifestation. Basilio was horrified and leapt out of one of the small windows of the tall spire in an attempt to end his life; instead his body instinctively glided towards the heavens. He flew high above the village where no one could spot him. He saw Anna's house and decided to take one last look at the only person that had indeed loved and accepted him. He heard Anna screaming in terror. He rushed over to the screams and to his utter amazement, another creature identical to himself carried her newborn into the hills.
Anna looked into Basilio's eyes and although she was not able to recognize him in his new form, she was not frightened of him. Somehow, she sensed this creature would not harm her. She witnessed as the monster that stood in front of her soared away into the mountains trailing after the first beast. She continued her watchful vigilance until there was no trace left of either being. In sheer panic and loathsome resentment, she wept sullenly at her futility. She cried herself to a deep and restless sleep. That night, she dreamed of Basilio being imprisoned by one of the winged fiends. In her dream, she was riding a mare and a second creature encircled her from above, but she was not afraid. She abruptly woke and found herself alone once more.
At dawn, Anna heard a deafening and hauntingly melodic cry. She sought the direction of this cry and caught sight of a docile fluttering being. It had revisited her anew. She was startled by its preternatural presence and she looked about her frantically in order to find the means to escape its awful closeness. She instantly paused when she spotted her baby lying safely asleep in its cradle. Anna could not believe her eyes. She was so overjoyed that she felt an overwhelming desire to embrace the creature in gratitude. In that single instance, she had a revelation. She slowly drew closer to him with her hand extended, but before she could touch him, caress him, the Basilisk immediately soared into the hills as if repelled by her gentleness.
And so, each year for the rest of Anna's days, on the day of her son's birth, mother and child were spotted hiking up into the treacherous mountains. The children of the village no longer disappeared. Despite the villagers' repeated warnings, Anna and her son ventured into the highlands unaccompanied. And to everyone's amazement, they always returned safely back to the village. For many years, in those parts, the eerily resonating call of the Cockatrice was heard by all. And for many more years, Anna and her son lived happily.